University students' perceptions of tobacco, cocaine, and homicide fatalities

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 1999 Feb;25(1):163-72. doi: 10.1081/ada-100101852.


A questionnaire was given to 350 students in introductory-level and 46 students in senior-level university courses to determine how accurately students are able to estimate the annual number of deaths in the United States from tobacco use, cocaine use, and homicide. Results show that students dramatically overestimate the number of cocaine-related deaths and homicides, but dramatically underestimate the number of tobacco-related deaths. The data indicate that students generally have a poor grasp in both absolute and relative terms of the dangers inherent in tobacco use. Results are attributed to the mixed message young people receive about tobacco, with tobacco ads countering the effects of government health warnings, in contrast to the media's consistent emphasis on the dangers of illegal drugs and crime.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Cause of Death
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / mortality*
  • Health Promotion / standards
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Mortality*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / mortality*
  • United States
  • Universities